When it comes to coffee, we’ve already looked at it from many angles, including the best chains to work for, the coolest around the world, and the best local shops in America. This time, though, we wanted to keep it plain and simple: What are the country's best coffee chains?
We defined a chain as any company with at least 50 units — though some have many times that. Most, if not all, of these have signature specialties — everyone knows, for example, that Dunkin’ Donuts is famous for its plain black coffee and its delicious "Munchkin” donut holes. And all are well-known within their communities — and in some cases all over the world.
Sit back, pour a cup of joe, and read on to learn what the 10 best coffee chains in America are.
PJ’s Coffee of New Orleans / Facebook
With about 70 stores located mostly in New Orleans and surrounding cities, this Louisiana-based coffee chain isn’t as well-known as others on our list. Nonetheless, its 15 different roast options and secret cold-drip process gives the cold-brew at other chains a run for its money. PJ's may be at the bottom of our top 10, but it’s still definitely worth a try.
Tully’s Coffee has gained a respectable reputation with its staff of some of the most knowledgeable and friendly baristas in the business. It also offers a great rewards card program, where customers are able to earn 10 percent back each time they load more than $20 onto their Tully’s card. Like PJ’s, it's a small chain (about 50 units in the western U.S., plus many more in Japan), which is why it doesn't place higher on our list.
Dunn Bros has over 50 stores all throughout the Midwest. This coffee chain strives to be as environmentally conscious as possible, offering 25 cents off all drinks served in a reusable mug or tumbler. Its trademark blend is the Infinite Black: a cold-brewed blend that’s created by steeping fresh-roasted coffee in cold water for 24 hours. These blends have 60 percent less acid than hot brewed coffee.
With over 1,000 locations across America, this chain is the oldest and largest privately owned specialty coffee and tea retailer in the U.S. Some of its most popular products include their pumpkin spice blend, Italian espresso capsules, French vanilla powder mix, and Café 63 Roast K-Cups. Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf has mastered the art of tea, coffee, and espresso; but in regards to food, it doesn’t have much to choose from — which kept it out of our top five.
Dutch Bros Coffee / Facebook
Dutch Bros. Coffee started as a pushcart selling nothing but espresso. Now, it’s a nationally-known coffee chain with 200-plus locations. Aside from specialty drinks, like the hazelnut-flavored Annihilator, the chain is best known for consistently providing top of the notch customer service and a laidback, fun atmosphere at each location.
Peet’s Coffee & Tea / Facebook
Founded in Berkeley in 1966, this chain provides over 30 types of both tea and coffee. Peet’s seasonal exclusives — like the salted caramel macchiato and the spiced hot tea cider — go above and beyond your average PSL or eggnog latte. Their signature coffee blends include Arabian Mocha-Java, Major Dickason’s Blend, and Colombia Luminosa. In 2012, the chain was sold to German conglomerate Joh. A. Benckiser for $977.6 million, and then taken private; today, there are over 190 Peet’s locations throughout the U.S.
Caribou Coffee / Facebook
Caribou Coffee’s menu is all about keeping it simple. It still offers variety, like its Ginger Chai Latte and fruity Caribou Coolers, but concentrates on providing high-quality Arabica-only blends. According to Caribou, the perfect cup of java all starts with one thing: the bean. Caribou is also the first major U.S. coffee chain to serve 100 percent Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee and espresso.
If you love Seattle’s Best signature blends, then you know why they landed the No. 3 spot on our list. Its classic black coffee (and most popular option) is sold at Burger King, Chevron Gas, Subway, and other places across the U.S. This mass distribution has made Seattle’s Best Coffee a go-to choice for Americans everywhere, no matter where they are or what they’re doing. Due to the chain’s rapid growth and popularity, Starbucks bought the company in 2003 for $72 million.
Despite its posh competition, Dunkin’ Donuts has consistently provided affordable java for working-class coffee lovers since 1950. With 7,000-plus locations across 36 states, seasonal favorites like the Holiday Sugar Latte, and an excess of pastries (including its iconic, Munchkin donut holes), sandwiches, and other foods to choose from, Dunkin’ Donuts easily took second place on our list. Want to know more about this chain? Click here for 13 things you didn’t know about Dunkin’ Donuts.
It should come as no surprise that Starbucks earned the top spot on our list. It doesn’t provide as many food options as some of its competitors, but its options are healthier. This java giant has more than 21,000 stores in over 65 countries, allowing it to cater to all kinds of cultures, languages, and taste buds around the globe. Starbucks has many trademark items (think: PSL), but avid fans love the chain’s secret menu items. Want to take a peek into their secret menu? We’ve got it here.